Winter 2017 — Benny Kuo studied vocal performance in his undergraduate career, but along the way, he found another passion. After taking a gap year, Kuo enrolled in Oregon State University’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) program and is now in his final year studying business at the graduate level.
At first, Kuo wanted to be a music teacher. After getting involved in a number of different student clubs, however, he realized that maybe his interests were broader than teaching, or even music. “It was the mentorship aspect that I latched onto, because it was something very apparent in my life and in high school,” Kuo remarked. “So I did some digging and realized that business was the way to go.”
Kuo now works as an intern at Oregon State’s Advantage Accelerator/RAIN Corvallis program, where he has plenty of opportunities to grow his mentoring skills. The Advantage Accelerator program assists innovators and entrepreneurs in the Mid-Willamette Valley and extended Oregon State University community. As part of his internship, Kuo works with entrepreneurs in the community providing market research that can help their start-ups succeed.
“The interns really take time to do a lot of the groundwork research and figure out ... is this product out there yet? If it’s not, is there a need for it? If there is, what type of people want it?” Kuo said.
Kuo did market research for a couple of projects nine months ago, and only recently was able to see the finished products at a showcase hosted by OSU. Because he hadn’t seen these projects since the beginning of their development, he was excited to see how the entrepreneurs used his research to make the best, most relevant product possible.
“That’s a really cool thing about the Advantage Accelerator program,” he said. “To provide some groundwork, then move away from the project for a while and come back and hear, ‘thanks to your insights we decided to go this route,’ or, ‘thanks to your insights we realized the route we were thinking about, there was no money in it.’ Either way, you were helping the entrepreneurs figure their business out.”
As part of the program, Kuo also serves as a mentor to undergraduate students studying in the introductory entrepreneurship classes at Oregon State. He coachs students on developing innovative product ideas, as well as feasible business models for these products.
Mentoring students is one of Kuo’s favorite aspects of being an intern. “It energizes me because I’m utilizing what I’m learning in class and through the Accelerator Program, and putting it into these mentoring sessions,” he said. “It’s reinforcing my learning and understanding of the entrepreneurship program.”
Kuo advises other students to participate broadly and get involved in different student organizations and clubs like he did as an undergrad. “You might end up doing something that was a hidden passion of yours and you might change your path. I’ve talked to multiple people who have done that — that have studied one thing and then went to a completely different field — and they love it.”
You might, like Kuo, find a hidden passion for business.